Monday, June 7, 2010

Pastoral: June 4

I had big plans for the weekend, big plans. Part I would be a night assault on Patoral (4,764') in the Turnagain area. I was on the road by 5 PM and skinning at 6:30. Not the best start, but the skies went from grey to blue. There was about 30 minutes of bush-whacking on the approach from the Sunburst trailhead. I took careful note of alternative routes for the way back. I felt strong and was moving quickly. Taylor Pass at 8 o'clock and Pastoral was looking good. There was a bit of a downclimb, and then right back to skinning. Shadows had enveloped me, but the goal was well lit. The summit approach looked straight-forward and with a route chosen, off I went.

Pastoral (9 PM)

Looking Down on the Grand Daddy Chute

View off the Back at Spencer Glacier (10 PM)

The snow was nice creamed corn for most of the approach, but the higher elevations gave way to death crust and eventually frozen bullet-pack. The wind was whipping on top, so it was time to descend. Rolling solo in a remote location with crap snow tends to lead to conservative decisions. No skiing like the Boyz tonight.

As I descended the snow improved and I was having a blast. But it was decision time: retrace my route or ski a patch lower.  Retracing my route would have taken me over the creek via a snow bridge and back through the heinous bushwhack.  I decided to take my chances and ski lower.  Reflecting back on it, I choose poorly. Granted I skied quite a bit lower and much closer to the vehicle, but I regretted this decision.

I fought my way through dense alders along the creek and was getting close to the highway.  I expected the creek to cross under the highway and I'd just have a bit of a pavement walk.  I was close and could see the occasional vehicle speed past. But then the creek turned sharply to the left and began to parallel the road.  Shit!

It was clear that I had to cross the creek . There was a spot with the willows were thick and the branches extended over the rushing water. I figured that if I clicked in to the Big Daddies I should be able to walk over the willows and make across nice and dry. Failure. I was up to my waist in cold-ass water and tangled in willow branches. Good call. At least this is over. I'll just release my skis and walk to shore. This was also a bad idea; the skis caught the current and whoosh. Awesome. It took a while but I recovered the skis and made to the road just before midnight. Time for rest and fuel.

-Zhou Yu

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